When I found Dr. Cynthia Bailey on a google search for dermatologists with an affinity for natural skin care, I was pleasantly surprised when I received a call back from her office in California. Then I was humbled by Dr. Bailey’s transparent and helpful disposition. Being a well-rounded woman, Dr. Bailey has a wonderful family, is an avid gardener, has an energetic poodle, and is a lover of nature and all things organic. And by the by, I learned that poodles are not french-they are german, and that cute cut actually serves a purpose.
Our conversation with Dr. Bailey will shed some light on proper basic skin care and some tips on protecting our skin from those dreadful wrinkles.
What inspired you to become a dermatologist?
It was not direct at all. I kind of followed my nose to things that excited me as I went into the field of science. I envisioned myself doing research at an academic institution in something like biochemistry or molecular biology. But one thing led to another and I started my own dermatology practice in the wine country of northern California.
I realized that through dermatology I could make a huge difference in one’s quality of life because the skin is what everyone sees.
This was all based on following my gut – my intuition and passion.
So ultimately you wanted to help people-
Yes. Also when I was 15, I had a growth on my leg that was at first diagnosed as an aggressive melanoma. It was recommended that I have an amputation. We got a second opinion on the pathology, and it turned out to be something that looked like melanoma but it was not, and I was spared the amputation. I realized that quality and cutting edge care makes a huge difference, and providing that became my goal.
A terrifying experience I’m sure-
It was numbing.
Given that experience, at what point should one engage the help of a dermatologist?
It depends on a person’s habit of accessing healthcare resources. Some people just go straight to a dermatologist if there’s anything on their skin and other people may try to fix it themselves, see their aesthetician, or see their primary care physician. It really depends on the person’s habits.
What are the 3 best things we can do for our skin?
1) Sun protection is important for everybody, not just for skin cancer but for skin attractiveness throughout our lifetime.
2) Self skin examinations, keeping an eye on our skin so that if something comes up we go to the doctor. For the back, we have to enlist the help of a partner or a good mirror and a lot of yoga
3) And then the foundation of good skin care for whatever our unique skin problems are.
What is your favorite natural, home remedy for skin?
It depends on the problem. But most people need moisturizer properly applied which means immediately after they’ve been wet after a shower or bath. And so my favorite would be jojoba oil or some other botanical oil. Olive oil is great, canola is great, extra virgin coconut oil is great.
My two personal favorites are jojoba and coconut oil as well.
The extra virgin coconut oil has some anti-staph properties. So it’s excellent for people who are prone to bacterial infections.
How do we keep our facial skin well moisturized without clogging the pores?
That’s tricky. The first step is to make sure you’re not using a soap that’s too harsh. Most people go running for moisturizer because they over-strip their body’s natural oils in their zeal to clean their skin.
Ok so I guess the best cleanser depends on the person’s skin.
Exactly. Some people are acne prone and other people are allergy prone and sensitive. While other people are super oily and need to actually lift some of that oil off.
The safest cleanser is a naturally made glycerin soap.
What’s more important for good skin – what we take in or what we put on?
It depends on your genetic disposition. Some people can trash their body and still look great – much to my marvel. While others may take one little dietary indiscretion and their skin goes bananas. That’s me. So for those that can eat anything it’s what they put on, and for the other group it’s what you put into the body in my opinion.
I just love the well-rounded viewpoint that you have of how we take care of ourselves. A lot of what we read, or some of the information out there can be one-sided or misleading. And many people believe that there is one formula that should just fit for everybody, but skin is very much a personal thing.
Oily skin, I’m assuming, comes from overactive sebaceous glands?
Yes, some people have more oil production from sebaceous glands than other people do. And it’s pretty much genetic.
For dry skin, we can’t change under active sebaceous glands, which is a rare condition. You just have to add oil to your skin care after the bath or shower. You must put a moisturizer on. And again not stripping the skin, figuring out that sweet spot with cleansing. So for the body, for example, you may have to only cleanse where there are apocrine glands, which are your smelly glands. You may not need to soap up your in-between areas as often unless you get really dirty. But for an oily skinned person they may have to soap up the body’s odor areas and the areas that produce a lot of oil or else their skin gets really gummy. You just have to know your own skin.
What is your skin care regimen? Do you do anything fancy?
Yes I do actually; I’m super high maintenance. I’m very fair, outdoors gardening, and just bought myself a convertible for my mid-life. So I wear sun protective clothing and hats all the time. I’ve used Retin-A for years, since I was 27. And I have fewer wrinkles than in my mid 20s, now that I am 53. I attribute that to Retin-A and sunscreen.
What does Retin-A do?
It helps build collagen from your own skin cells. It turns your skin cells on in the surface of your skin where fine wrinkles occur. It turns them on to build collagen slowly over the years.
Ok, I’m 37-
So it’s always good to start Retin-A now because you’re younger today than you will be tomorrow. The sooner the better. The Retin-A has chemicals in it, and I’ve decided that they’re ok. It’s always a balance for me – the chemicals versus the functionality versus the goals. And Retin-A does have parabens in it. It will never be changed because it’s a drug, they will not change the formulation. I take the parabens because I want the goal.
What is a good over the counter alternative to Retin-A?
There’s Retinol but it doesn’t do the same collagen forming. It’s Retin-A or nothing for that category, which is a vitamin A family medicine.
It’s a prescription drug with important tricks to using it and so you can’t just go to Mexico, buy it, and expect it to work. You need to get the whole use instructions from a good dermatologist.
So don’t just put it on your face like moisturizer.
It’s complicated and actually it’s on my blog. That’s the information I share on my blog, the tricks I’ve learned over 20 years of taking care of over 13,000 different people.
Dr. Bailey’s blog is here.
Is Retin-A something that most of us could potentially use?
Yes it is. There are 3 main wrinkle skin care treatments in my opinion that are worth the money: Retin-A, Glycolic Acid (a fruit acid from sugar cane), and then there is vitamin C. But it has to be a special kind of vitamin C and in a special formulation. There are many different product options for the Glycolic Acid. These 3 all create new collagen which is the only way treat wrinkles. Dr. Bailey’s blog explains in detail how these options work.
Can you help someone with issues of hair breakage?
Yes, dermatology is skin, hair and nails. Hair can be complicated because it’s often the tip of the iceberg to a bigger problem. But it can also be mechanical, it does take a good physical exam.
Where is your practice?
Northern California, an hour and a half north of San Francisco on the coast in Wine Country. Redwoods, wine, and ocean.
So you will be there FOR-EVER?
Totally. I am not moving. Redwoods, wine, fog, sweet ocean air, organic vegetables, AMAZING local produce and culinary scene. In fact, the culinary scene rivals Italy, France, and Spain. It is a quality of life location, probably one of the best in the entire world.
At the time of this interview, it was nearly 100 degrees F in Georgia. Dr. Bailey boasted fog and 55 degree weather.
Last words of wisdom.
Oftentimes people grow frustrated after seeing 2-3 dermatologists, and they just don’t feel as though they’ve had a thorough consideration of their problem. I just have to say keep looking until you’ve found a dermatologist who ‘gets it’. Because we’re (dermatologists) not all interest in the same things. We’re not all created equal. Years ago dermatology was a very low glamour specialty, and it’s evolved now to being almost a cosmetic surgical specialty. And so there’s every manner of dermatologist in between. There is a dermatologist out there for everybody.
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